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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Côte d’Ivoire/Nigeria: Combat Trafficking for Prostitution

Authorities in Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria should investigate and close down networks that traffic Nigerian women and girls to Côte d'Ivoire for forced prostitution, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called for collaboration among regional neighbors to improve border efforts to combat trafficking.
In July 2010, Human Rights Watch traveled to three Ivorian towns and met with groups totaling around 30 Nigerian women believed to have been trafficked for prostitution. Eight victims were interviewed individually. Scores of similar cases involving Nigerian women and girls were documented by interviews with Ivorian officials, United Nations personnel, and Nigerian embassy staff. Many victims were either between the ages of 15 and 17 or had been minors when brought to Côte d'Ivoire.

"These women and girls were sold dreams of migrating to better their lives, but then found themselves in a personal hell," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The Ivorian and Nigerian authorities need to find and prosecute the perpetrators, work with regional neighbors to shut down their operations, and do more to protect the victims."

In two small towns in central Côte d'Ivoire, with populations of about 40,000 and 50,000, respectively, Human Rights Watch documented the presence of five separate brothels of Nigerian women and girls. A gendarme in one of the towns estimated that at least 100 Nigerian women were working there as prostitutes. Human Rights Watch investigations indicated that the majority of them were likely to have been trafficked.

Deceived into Prostitution
All of the women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch described being deceived into migrating with promises of work as apprentice hairdressers or tailors, or to work in other businesses elsewhere in West Africa or in Europe. They said that Nigerian women recruited and transported them overland through Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The majority of victims told both Human Rights Watch and the Nigerian embassy that they came from Delta and Edo States in southern Nigeria.

Nigerian embassy staff in Abidjan told Human Rights Watch that they have repatriated scores of women trafficked for prostitution, including dozens this year alone, and noted that the problem is on the rise.

Ruth (not her real name), a 27-year-old Nigerian woman trafficked for prostitution in central Côte d'Ivoire, said: 

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